U.S. Unwisely Ignores Sub-Saharan Africa

By Price, John | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 29, 2013 | Go to article overview
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U.S. Unwisely Ignores Sub-Saharan Africa

Price, John, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


African leaders are skeptical about President Obama's engagement of sub-Saharan Africa, in part, because he has been there only once since becoming president, visiting Ghana in 2009 for less than 24 hours.

What's more, when Mali's government called out for help to subdue Islamist extremists who had overrun the northern part of the country, the Obama administration demurred.

Mistrust and resentment exist in sub-Saharan Africa, and present a challenge for the administration as Mr. Obama plans to visit Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania from June 26 to July 3.

The president will reinforce the importance that the United States places on our deep and growing ties with countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including through expanding economic growth, investment, and trade; strengthening democratic institutions; and investing in the next generation of African leaders, according to a White House statement this month. The trip will underscore the president's commitment to broadening and deepening cooperation between the United States and the people of sub-Saharan Africa to advance regional and global peace and prosperity.

Last week, Secretary of State John F. Kerry traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of the African Union. In his remarks Saturday, Mr. Kerry focused on building democracy and protecting human rights.

As everybody knows, we believe very deeply that where people can exercise their rights, and where there is an ability to have a strong democracy, the economy is stronger, the relationship with the government is stronger, people do better, and it's an opportunity to be able to grow faster, stronger, by rule of law, he said.

Mr. Kerry also acknowledged that the United States is far behind in investing and taking advantage of the economic opportunities in Africa. The U.S. has shown only a limited interest in sub-Saharan Africa, with most of its attention focusing on the petroleum and minerals sectors.

Africa has 15 percent of the world's population, but makes up less than 3 percent of the world's GDP. Five of the 49 sub-Saharan countries account for 44 percent of Africa's GDP. Even though South Africa and Nigeria make up nearly 34 percent of the continent's economy, most of their citizens live at or below the poverty line.

I believe the Obama administration has a myopic view of this faraway continent and a limited understanding of its importance to our national security.

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